Forty-one years ago today, I was deprogrammed from the cult of Sun Myung Moon.

Many of you may not be familiar with the Unification Church, AKA the “Moonies.” The church and its many front groups and related organizations have not been in the news as much recently. They lost a lot of their American membership after this book exposed abuse and corruption within the Moon family. (Ex-member Nansook Hong wrote that her husband Hyo Jin Moon, the so-called sinless eldest son of the Messiah used cocaine, frequented prostitutes, and even hit her stomach while she was pregnant.)

Despite founder Sun Myung Moon’s death in 2012, membership losses, criticism, and scandal, the Moonies are still around, and still a cause for concern. Even though the group has splintered into three distinct spheres, they are all part of the “Mooniverse.”

  • The Moonies were known for their mass weddings and selling flowers on street corners in the 1970’s. They continue to hold mass weddings today, commanding people to marry strangers who may not even speak the same language.
  • I was deceptively recruited by the Moonies while attending Queens College. They persuaded me to drop out and become the director of their student group, The Collegiate Association for the Research of Principles (CARP). This organization has been known by different names, but it is still actively recruiting college students.
  • Sun Myung Moon’s son Kook-jin (“Justin”) Moon owns a gun manufacturer, Kahr Firearms Group. Eric Trump, son of now President Donald Trump, attended the opening of their Tommy Gun warehouse last fall (Eric’s speech is at 8:50).
  • Another prominent public figure, Prince Harry, visited an orphanage owned by the Moonies last December.
  • The Washington Times, was founded by Moon and is still financed. This conservative daily newspaper in America’s Capitol has influenced many presidents including Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Donald Trump, and others.
  • Members of the Bush family have received money for speaking engagements.
  • In 2004, Sun Myung Moon was crowned in the US Senate and claimed, “I am God’s ambassador, sent to Earth with his full authority.”
  • The Moonies currently have a front group called The Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (FFWPU) which purports to fight human trafficking. This is ironic for an organization which, in my experience, has used fraud and coercion to get its members to work long, unpaid hours. In my opinion, and therefore IMO is involved in labor trafficking.

The church’s public image has become more mainstream over the years. They don’t sell flowers on the side of the road anymore. They are targeting academics, scientists, and world leaders to gain more wealth and prestige. They use front groups to promote a humanitarian image. This is typical of destructive cults; they are always trying to re-invent themselves and whitewash the more scandalous or embarrassing parts of their history.

I remember when I was in the group, and Sun Myung Moon loved the term “Moonie.” I even had a t-shirt that said, “I am a Moonie and I ♥ it!” Yet while Moon was serving 13 months in prison for conspiracy to evade taxes, his group spent $30 million on a PR campaign which, among other things, claimed that using the term “Moonie” was equivalent to calling someone the N-word.

Don’t be fooled by Moonie marketing! As described in the Divine Principle, the goal of the Unification Church is to announce Moon as the perfect messiah who would save the world. In reality, I attended many meetings with Moon where he described the need to install a worldwide theocracy. Their front groups, business holdings, and meetings with influential people all serve to promote an ideology which has been described by academics to be elitist, racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, and totalitarian.

Unfortunately, I meet many young people who say they have never heard of the Moonies, or they only know about the mass marriages. Please share this post and other resources. Young people need to learn about this harmful organization and others like it.

For more information:

Open Minds Foundation

BBC documentary Emperor of the Universe

Great informational blog by former members How Well Do You Know Your Moon

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Steven Hassan

About the Author: 

Steven Hassan M.Ed. LMHC, NCC has helped thousands of individuals and families recover from undue influence (mind control). With over 40 years of experience, he is sought after as one of the foremost authorities on undue influence and controlling groups and individuals. Steve understands the subject from a unique perspective as both a former cult member and as a clinical professional.

Steven is the Founding Director of the Freedom of Mind Resource Center, a coaching, consulting, and training organization dedicated to supporting individuals to have the freedom to think clearly and to freely consider how they want to live their lives.  Steven pioneered a breakthrough method called the Strategic Interactive Approach (SIA), an effective and legal alternative for families to help cult members.  The SIA teaches family and friends how to strategically influence the individual involved in the cult.

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